Tag Archives: By hand London

By Hand patterns = party wear, no?

After a week that imploded I am now most definitely ON HOLIDAY!!!  For a whole fortnight!!!! Woo hoo!!!

Charlotte 1And this post will do without too many words, as it’d be dangerous after a couple of glasses of Cava accompanying a lunch with my girl friends, but it would be remiss for me not to share what I wore. ….this outfit will become the spirit of Christmas 2013…

charlotte 2

Oh it’s perfection!   This is yet another Charlotte skirt from the talented By Hand girls.   It shouts loud tropical party to me, & the peplum is the icing on the cake….Made from the fabric I bought with my Mum in Truro which she overtly detested (she is into muted colours.  This almost made her vomit hahaha).

charlotte6I will make sure to take this skirt with me when I visit over Christmas!  ( She expects nothing less of me).  I actually managed to eek this skirt out of one metre (it’s true) of fabric by cutting the peplum & waistband in two pieces.   The wild fabric design masks it & it was a gamble worth taking.  The fabric has some stretch to it, perfect for the figure hugging Charlotte skirt…

charlotte 9-001

The top is also unblogged – a batwing jersey top from the December Burda mag.  It is to me a match made in heaven.  I love it.  And it got me thinking.  You see I am already very conscious that these next few weeks are my time to get out there for some parties & I have five party outfits, & guess what?  They are nearly all from the By Hand London catalogue!

charlotte 9There is this skirt.  I have also worn my first Charlotte skirt out for a christmas meal.

charlotte 8I would also consider my leopard print Charlotte skirt totally suitable for getting down (note the irony.  ) Then there is my quintessential party dress, my Elisalex.

charlotte 7And I have two more yet to show you.  One of which is yet another By Hand creation.  Conclusive proof that these girls love to party, am I right?  See what I am saying?

charlotte 5In the meantime, you have been watching some sponatneous shots of me, my outrageous Charlotte skirt & what happens when it comes into contact with some groovy tunes & my ankle boots…& Cava…

charlotte 4 Let the pictures do the talking!

charlotte 3-001Time for some fun, I hope you’re all feeling it too.  What a relief to finish work …time for family & friends & parties!!

charlotte 3

I have yet to reply to the lovely comments from my last post (a week ago …where did it go…oh yes, implosion) but a big thank you to everyone who was kind enough to say how much you also love the Spearmint coat...I will have more head space & time now that the last work week before I broke up is over.

But until then, happy weekend everyone.  Enjoy!!

Party!!! It just has to be the Elisalex dress

Well after a couple of slimline posts this week it is time for one of those makes I’ve been hoarding away from you.

elisalex (2)It won’t surprise you that I have had this pattern for quite a while now, but had never quite got around to making it up.  Fabric was my perennial point of dithering.  However, I am at my most creative when I have a deadline to sew for, & having received an invite for not only a jolly October party, but  also a wedding in November, the Elisalex (with long sleeves) appeared to be my winter party dress solution.


Now as you’ll read on the envelope, stiff furnishing fabric is recommended, & I happen to have this gingham furnishing weight fabric from Terry’s Fabrics, but before I made up a gingham frock, I wanted to make me a party dress & happened to remember some viscose jacquard that I’d bought from Birmingham Rag Market.  I can’t believe that this fabric was £1 per metre, clearance!!  It’s LUSH!

So my Elisalex sewing experience was a little flawed in that ages ago I had cut my bodice pieces too small & I’m talking rib-constricting small.  I’m talking super strained zip.  So I had to take another princess seamed bodice that fit me & then created an Elisalex hybrid with all of the gorgeous neckline & low back.

elisalex (6)I think it worked out fine – can you tell that the bodice is not a true Elisalex dress? The rest of the dress came together no problemo.  And the fabric was lovely to sew.  Although it’s not as stiff as the By Hand girls envisioned, it still works nicely & was a lovely weight to be wearing a la party.  It has a little bit of swoosh about it…

elisalex (4)I don’t usually do low backs, but it’s a party dress, isn’t it?  I am keeping the shoulders in place with bra strap retainers – in this case they serve a dual purpose: keeping dress on shoulders & keeping bra straps hidden.

elisalex (3)

I got plenty of dancing in with this little lovely.  I was warm enough not to need a cardigan or jacket, but not too hot that I glowed indecorously.  And it’s all sorted for the wedding now…nice!

elisalex (5)

And now I have a custom fitting Elisalex bodice I can go Elisalex crazy like Dolly Clackett!!  I am so looking forward to a winter day Elisalex dress in gingham with a red empire line bow…

Bet Lynch and Donald Trump would come to blows for this

Question: What do you get if you cross Miss Demeanour and Handmade Jane?

Well, read on & you can find out, knowing that it was these two lovelies that were particularly inspirational in my latest make.  And whilst it’s autumn, a new season to sew for & my head’s been swimming with ideas about what to make, I haven’t got a plan & until write it down I am afraid I am going to get pulled in different directions.  I sense a blog post containing a plan coming…when I force myself to engage the rational organised side of my brain that is & put fingers to keyboard.

Remember this?

Until I make a plan though, spontaneity reigns.  When I have energy that is, I seem to react after seeing something truly gorgeous someone  is sharing in their blog & my imagination & sense of possibility is lured down a new pathway.  At the moment I am weak, oh so weak! (I have so many things to blame marathon training for!!) This make therefore is a quick & dirty one.  Above is the tease I left you with.

Victoria Blazer (2)

And what has it become?  Not sportswear hahaha, even though it was shown during a Great North Run post!  Why, it’s become my own Victoria Blazer from ByHand London.  There have been too many sensational examples splashed across the blogosphere & whilst I kept reading what a simple jacket it is to make, I was not convinced about the particular shape for me.  And talk about being late for the Victoria Blazer party?  I arrived just in time to do the clearing up collecting cans, bottles & paper plates in bin bags, that’s how late I am….

Victoria Blazer 5I don’t suit boxy.  Thanks to Jane though who made a version in a knit I could hold out no more.  Jane had made a few mods including shaping the side seams.  Jane says she doesn’t do boxy either, yet Jane’s version looked so spivvy that I was sold.  I ordered the pattern that day.

Victoria Blazer 3I had no plan for fabric until I remembered some purple Morgan Crepe Jersey that I had spontaneously ordered from Minerva as part of a larger order I’d made a couple of months ago.  I ordered it not knowing really what I was ordering, or what I was going to make but the description & price looked too good to ignore.  This is a mid weight knit in a beautiful plum colour (I’m into plum & purple at the moment).  This fabric could be a lovely autumn dress or skirt or maybe even some lounge pants…..  or a jacket!!

Victoria Blazer 4The Victoria blazer is lined and it was only through reviewing the sewalong and examples of wow jackets being showcased that I remembered Miss Demeanour’s fetching meow jacket with faux animal lining.  Why I had some fluffy animal print stashed away as a result of some gifted by Suzy at a blogger meet up.  It looks wild with the plum!  The plan was hatched.

Victoria Blazer

And it is true what everyone has said – this is a simple jacket to make.  I prepared by some reading through of the pattern instructions & sewalong posts, but really could have followed the instructions there & then.  So construction then was straight forward.  I used my overlocker for most of the seams – except those mainly relating to the collar/ lapels/ centre front.  I really liked the front over-the-shoulder dart & the way that the collar & lapels are attached.  I did not line the sleeves by the way, & whilst I entertained the idea of adding patch pockets, I didn’t follow that one through either.  My revisions  were just side seam shaping & shortening at the hem.

Victoria Blazer 7 (2)

What has worked less well, & I blame myself, (who else ?!) is the whole collar sitting nice & flat job.  I should have added some interfacing to the collar & lapels with hindsight – they are a bit floppy.  The softness of the plum knit combined with the more bulky fluffy lining means that the centre front edges are not as crisp as I’d like – added with the floppy lapels make me compulsively straighten them & pull them down as I am wearing it.

Victoria Blazer 7Left to its ultra floppiness.  Need.to.straighten.lapels.

I have top stitched this edge, through the collar & lapels to help set them in place, as well as strategically catch-stitching the underneath of the lapels & collar to the jacket front.

The hem is also a little disappointing in that the lining peeps out- this I blame on multiple factors – the way the two fabrics work together & the sloppiness of the seamstress! And let’s throw in marathon training too – told you it can be blamed for almost anything ;-)

But all in all, considering I have not had the time & energy to sew much recently I have been enjoying wearing it.   It’s a good extra layer for this time of year.

Victoria Blazer 6

Maybe not for work ..

I feel I need to get my leopard skin brothel creepers out & sugar water my quiff….or let’s channel some Trump/ Lynch…they both have *amazing* hair …

Victoria Blazer 9Being modelled with my ByHand Charlotte skirt would you know!

Victoria Blazer 8Neat look!!

My Courtly Anna dress from By Hand London

I want to make my version of this dress …just like this, in black with the slash neck

Source: By Hand London

This is what pulled me in – this dress exactly.  And I WILL make it.  I am fancying it will be in black linen.  But first I was propelled into making my first version with stash fabric after not being able to repel the Anna storms that have been breaking out across the internet….so here’s the story…

anna 4

Lizzy had the right idea- she of three Annas.  The Anna dress is a dress you want to capture as you move.  It has something of the middle ages about it.  I feel like a lady wearing it.  A lady in waiting perhaps? (Although waiting for what, I don’t know)

anna 8

Maybe it’s because this is the only dress that has turned me to the “maxi” length.  It’s not new, but it is to me.  I had a brief fling with a maxi skirt last summer & all I wanted to do was to be caught walking through the sea with it.

I haven’t worn it since, but that’s not because of the salt.  (It awaits transformation …)

anna 2

The Anna dress from By Hand London though?  I still feel as if I am wearing a combination of a nightie or as Roisin put it, as close to a sari as you can get without it being a sari.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it just means that it is outside my usual clothing zone.  But I think it’s worth it.  I already want to make more.  I REALLY want to make a black slash neck maxi Anna (have you got that by now?!) and then a slash neck midi Anna.  And I want to make one for my son’s girlfriend.  She complimented me on this Anna & I could just see her wispy graceful form floating around in a classically simple but super chic maxi dress.

anna 3

So OK, onto my first make opinion.  Everyone who has made this dress raves about how quick it is to make & it’s true.  Choosing the fabric & eeking out what I had was the hard part.  I so wanted to have enough of the fabric I used to make my kimono as an Anna, but absolutely no dice.  (It’s available now here at Minerva by the way, described as a voile & I think it would make a glorious Anna) .The fabric’s pattern had a definite right way up & the skirt pattern pieces are flipped around all over the fabric’s pattern direction, which wasn’t going to work with my 2m!  By the way, thank you Karen for advising that you can lop off about 9” off the hem & still have enough to trip over (as a shorter person that is!).

So fabric choices from my stash were limited.  Luckily I had a length of this blue dotty fabric acquired from Abakhan in May.  No pattern direction at all.  It became my first Anna.  I seemed to want to make it quickly though, since everyone had said what a quick make it was, I too needed it to be quick.  Therefore although I absolutely lurve the slash neckline, I was afraid it might fall too high & I wasn’t prepared to make any time consuming alterations…so I went v neck.

anna 5

I used French seams where I could to construct the dress.  Does anyone else use their serger/ overlocker for the first stage of French seams like I do?  It eliminates the need to trim seams before turning, pressing & sewing the second seam that encloses the first seam?

anna 6

And just like everyone else I also lurve the bust darts- so pretty!  Now I think my bodice could do with a bit taken out of it for next time – the neckline gapes by about 1.5” (& that was after I’d taken a few tucks in the pattern’s neckline before cutting out the fabric) .  I also shaved off a slim wedge at the centre back which seems to have been enough.  But the fit of the rest of it seems pretty good.

anna 1

For once I made a special trip to get an invisible zip and I think it’s worth it, having put it in.  A nice neat finish.  One question I’ve got of the Amazing TaraCat though….how on earth can you get this dress on without a zip?  I am surely not able to get it over my head.

The front split – oh laughs!  I misread the pattern markings & my first seam ended to create a split that was almost pelvic!  Ha ha.  That didn’t stay.  I also read that Lizzy regretted machining hers since it is on display so much, so I took the time to hand sew it, & I am glad that I did.  I also hemmed by hand so that is also invisible.

anna 7

It’s been very much a home dress so far though.  I swaddled myself in it last Sunday after my long run.  The day was grey & cooler & my legs needed some coverage.  At one point I really was the medieval lady when the pashmina came out to wrap around my upper body.  You see this dress & cardigans do not really mix in my view.  It’s too courtly….anyway, it was very much a lounging and entertaining at home dress on Sunday.  And since, it has been a working at home dress.  Padding around the house with bare feet collecting hot drinks & tapping away at my desk.

All this explains its slightly wrinkled appearance in case you were wondering!  It’s being used !!

I do however have a vision of Anna maxi dresses with ankle boots & wrinkled down socks.  A bit of a festival frock perhaps?


Jungle January Charlotte Skirt

At last, I am able to reveal my new fave skirt.  This is my second iteration of the adorable Charlotte Skirt, By Hand London.  Here is my first (very wearable & multi-occasional ).  This latest version was conceived way back in October when the Charlotte pattern was first released & Suzy & I met at the Birmingham Rag Market meet up.  Suzy was kind enough to give me this fabric which was left over after her awesome “Rock Chick Clovers” & the seed was sown….It is a velvet-like needle cord & has a stretchy element to it.  Lovely!  Nice & warm for the winter & should see me into Spring too.

It was “Jungle January”, the  challenge instigated by Annie at Pretty Grievances that willingly pushed this make higher up my list.  The aim, to cloak the interweb in animal print me-mades during January.  Here is mine….

jungle jan

See it?  No?  OK, I’ll come out a bit more…

jungle jan

Are you sure it’s safe to come out?  Ok, I’ll lose the disguise as well & show you a few looks for this skirt.  First of all, earlier this week, it frolicked with the other snow leopards & my fleece Renfrew  & Ooh La La Leggings

Charlotte snow-005

But then it melted & it was time to party- the downhill ice rink has retreated!!

I’m flinging pics at you because I haven’t much to add about the making.  It is a great pattern, I’ve told you before.  i love it.  I used the dental floss gathering method again, summarised in this lil collage below

2013_01_27 Jungle January Charlotte SkirtThat floss is as tough as you need it to be to get all that length of gathering done, & with fabric as thick as velvet-cord it needs to be heavy duty.  It’s really easy – just use a slightly wider zig zag than normal.


Here we are from behind- I didn’t use a concealed zipper again, purely because I didn’t have one …

JJ Charlotte 1

So I’m pleased with it – & it’s comfy as well as smart.  I still couldn’t bring myself to break the formula that I love & chose the hem not the peplum.  I’m sorry, just couldn’t do it!!

It’s Love, Charlotte Skirt: part 2

IT’S OFFICIAL – COMMENTS ARE WORKING!!  A whole choir of trumpeting angels has taken a break from carol singing & is covering a Stevie Wonder song in celebration (in my head anyway!)  Those fab tech guys have persevered & have got it all sorted for me – thank you Page.ly.  Now I am able to let loose some stored up posts, & have even recovered some (but not all ) of the comments you were brave enough to try for me – I will answer them shortly :-)

So, onto the Charlotte skirt.  Which way did I go?  Peplum or hem ruffle.  Let’s start at the beginning ….

I have to admit that I nearly passed out in a Victorian swoon when I first clapped eyes on the Charlotte skirt, a By Hand London design.  I only had thoughts for the version with the hem ruffle, but but as we know, it also allows a peplum design as well as a super curvy unadorned pencil skirt.  It was simply dreamy.  I was imagining it made in suiting for work, a plain black one also for work & in peacock print for playtime.  And I’m not revealing yet the most exciting variant I have in mind….

But hang on, isn’t it “just” a simple pencil skirt with a frill?  I did wonder this myself, but with some self awareness knew that even if I could replicate this myself I surely would not get around to it in the near future & I was frothing with craving for a frilled skirt once I had seen the Charlotte.  So as soon as it was released I swooped.  It became mine. And let me tell you this is not “just” a pencil skirt with frill variations.  Let me stop any such thoughts interfering right now & carry on with the love affair….

Here it is…..peplum or ruffle…first sighting…

As soon as I’d ordered, Charlotte, the co-founder was straight in email conversation chatting (I could gauge her excitement) – really approachable (nice to meet you Charlotte :-)  ) When the pattern arrived it was packaged so thoughtfully, you could tell that this was an important element of their product: a sturdy cerise cardboard package with slip cover containing booklet & pattern (& I loved Charlotte’s character description on the cover ).  Sadly Charlotte had the difficult job of trying to reign me in as a temporary glitch meant a pause before the tissue patterns were reissued.  But, I could not wait!  It is a skirt, not a complex dress.  I was happy to make my own tweaks to the pattern by making a muslin & measuring pattern pieces in advance of cutting.

I took it slowly, as you know I have a number of things vying for my attention at the moment afterall, & plenty of Christmas makes I should be busy with (if I made it too quickly guilt would surely make its entry – slow make in between other projects = minimal guilt) .  I used some wool mix that I had bought at a previous trip to Birmingham’s Rag market in a woolly plum mix colour.  I didn’t have an invisible zip so sewed a lapped zipper, which I’m OK with, but I can imaging it looking a lot sleeker with an invisible zip.

Bit by bit I put it together & I tried it on as I went, adjusting the side seams & lengthened the darts slightly.   This is not unusual for me sewing skirts, particularly such a style as this which is meant to fit well, hugging those curves.  But it was a straightforward make, it is said to be suitable for a beginner afterall.

I left the ruffle & the length till last, having sewn the waistband, button hole & button before deciding on where to cut off the hem & where to place the ruffle.  It was really fascinating messing around with ruffle placement – I had discounted the peplum thinking that it would make me look too hip heavy- but actually it’s cute (& Rachel totally rocks her peplum Charlotte here).

This pattern could be worn by someone far more leggy than me – I had a good 12″ to cut off, but not before I tried various lengths out along the way.

The ruffle is made on the fold so that there is no hem.  Gathering is made through a double layer – it attaches to the skirt & the fold forms the hem.  You saw here that I used a zig zag plus dental floss gathering method.  I am really pleased how this turned out, but will not be able to recycle the floss for another ruffle (but perhaps it can still be used for flossing :-s  – joke!)

The only thing I would say is that the instructions might not quite provide enough information for a complete beginner to attach the ruffle, & the method suggested for gathering was by making hand stitches- which I bet would give you lots of control, but not for me I’m afraid, there is  a lot of ruffle to gather & if I hadn’t used the floss method I would certainly have used  my machine for basting & I would even tempted to reinvestigate my ruffler foot on my overlocker….

But, before attaching the ruffle I had a dilemma about the skirt’s length & once again the approachable Charlotte responded to my query about the ideal length.  I wanted to make sure that the wonderful siren lines created by the curves would not be ruined by me hacking too much off.  I was interested to know about her sense of proportion in the design.  Her advice was to cut the hem (of the ruffled variety) about 2″ above the knee so that the ruffle falls just below the knee when it is finished.  But check out By Hand’s Blog for other hem variations such as this one by Elisalex.

Now, back to the style again.   I have to tell you that there is some serious shaping going on in this design: it is no ordinary pencil skirt.  This little number has CURVACIOUS written all over it.  The double darts work really well, the designed ease at hips & sweeping curve to the hem highlight the hourglass.  The hem is a hobble hem (not that I know if there is a strict definition to that, but I cannot walk in my usual stride).  It was something else that I queried with Charlotte, you see my original plans to make this into a work skirt out of suiting required it to be possible to perform my customary 2 mile walk to & from work each day (with galloping great hills).  Could this skirt fit the bill, or would it be destined for more genteel use (permanently adorned with a glass of bubbly perhaps?).

When I wore it to work it was a driving day to our offices in another town.  Even getting into the driving seat requires more decorum than my usual ungainly split leg approach.  But I tottered into the office with my heeled boots (not worn much these days due to aforementioned habit of yomping) feeling so girly & well fitted.  This skirt is super feminine & making it in wool was very cosy.   I did not feel “too fitted” as sitting down was fine & didn’t result in an urge to undo the waistband as soon as no one was looking.  The pattern suggest using fabric with a little stretch & I do have some lined up for later versions, however, this wool mix doesn’t really have much give, & I can assure you it is comfortable, it really doesn’t feel like the kind of skirt you get “poured into”.  The only thing that did make me smile was thoughts of the hem, & how it barely fits over your hips, when you need to, erm, raise your skirt in the “smallest” room.

Oh how I adore this pattern!!!!  I want to make many many more.  I want to make “the” one that I have in mind in time for party season, but first need to get gift sewing under control….I also fancy a mini version that could well possibly be better suited to hiking up & down gradients.  I think there will come a time when I go peplum too, now that my paranoia about adding to my hips has been dampened.  However I have to say that I am devoted to the hemline ruffle will I be able to make that departure?

With the Elisalex dress, what a fantastic first pair of designs from By Hand.  Can’t wait to see what comes next (no pressure!!)  And I wonder if my boys are brave enough to buy me this dress pattern for Christmas – it is on my wishlist!?!  I so fancy making the long sleeved version …

Now if you do fancy leaving a comment, it should be working & the lovely ladies at By Hand will be able to see what you think …..Bye for now all – I am so happy to be functioning again! :-)